Bill Watch is a service of the Knoxville Bar Association Legislative Committee. During each week of the legislative session, the KBA will distribute an updated report, through the support of Stephanie D. Coleman of Owings, Wilson & Coleman. The report will indicate progress and recent actions taken on the bills of interest to KBA members.
You can also get information about the General Assembly, including the text of bills and floor and committee calendars, by accessing the legislative web site at www.capitol.tn.gov.
March 20, 2020
2020 is the second year in the 111th General Assembly’s two-year cycle. At its conclusion, typically in April or May, the legislature should adjourn sine die, wiping clean all pending legislation. Instead, for now, they have recessed ostensibly until June 2020, after hurriedly passing the budget for 2020-2021.
Budget - The Tennessee General Assembly recessed the 2020 legislative session on Thursday evening after passing a budget. The budget recognizes essentially no new growth in Tennessee revenues for the upcoming fiscal year set to begin in July as a result of the crisis, whereas previously it was anticipated at the rate of 3.1 percent. As a result, the legislation removes approximately $900 million in improvements from Governor Bill Lee’s original proposal in order to meet the challenges ahead.
It responds to the tornado disaster and the COVID-19 crisis by adding to the Disaster Relief Fund and providing $150 million to establish a new fund to cover public health and safety issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it includes an additional $9.3 million in non-recurring funds for the adult health care safety net and $3 million in recurring funds.
The legislation doubles the Local Government Grants proposed by Governor Lee earlier this year from $100 million to $200 million for infrastructure and to help mitigate the economic effects of the crisis on local governments. It also includes an additional $350 million in the Rainy-Day fund, $37 million to start the governor’s education savings account program, and continues to fully fund obligations such as the Basic Education Program (BEP), growth in TennCare, and other liabilities.
Education/ Standards - Legislation passed the General Assembly this week regarding the effects of closures and other school-related hardships due to COVID-19 and the March 3rd tornadoes. Senate Bill 2672 waives certain K-12 education rules and requirements to help those impacted by Tennessee’s current state of emergency. It also requires the State Board of Education to revise high school graduation requirements to ensure that no high school seniors affected by the school closures fail to receive a high school diploma for which the student was on-track and otherwise eligible to receive.
Due to school closures, the bill waives the requirement for TNReady and end of course assessments that were scheduled this spring for the 2019-2020 school year, unless school districts administer them voluntarily. If such voluntary tests are administered, scores for students, teachers and school districts will only be used if it reflects positive growth or a higher grade.
The legislation also waives:
- the requirement for 180 days of classroom instruction;
- BEP-related requirements to ensure that school districts and employees shall continue to receive full state funding despite any lengthy school closures; and
- the11th grade postsecondary readiness assessment for the 2019-20 school year.
In addition, the bill authorizes the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation to create emergency rules to protect financial aid and credit opportunities, including dual enrollment courses, for high school students.
Post-Secondary Education - Legislation was approved before the General Assembly recessed to ensure students affected by Tennessee’s state of emergency are not denied access to higher education financial aid programs and scholarships due to specific calendar deadlines required by state law. Senate Bill 1973 authorizes the executive director for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) to temporarily suspend, modify, or waive deadlines or other non-academic eligibility requirements in law rule or policy for any of Tennessee’s financial aid programs when an emergency declaration is issued by the governor.
Healthcare - The Senate approved three bills this week critical to the operations of Tennessee’s hospitals, nursing homes and ambulance services by extending assessments used to draw down federal matching funds. Senate Bill 2022, the Tennessee Hospital Assessment Act, raises $600 million in state funds, which allows Tennessee to receive $1.1 billion in federal matching funds, for a total of $1.7 billion for the state’s TennCare program. Similarly, Senate Bill 2123 provides funds that are essential for operating nursing homes in Tennessee. The legislation raises funds allocated to the Nursing Home Assessment Trust Fund by $134.6 million, allowing Tennessee to draw down $259.8 million in needed federal matching funds. The state’s ground ambulance providers also benefit from federal matching funds made available through the Tennessee’s Ground Service Provider Assessment Act. Senate Bill 2078 helps ambulance services transport patients by matching $22.5 million in federal funds with the $11.7 million assessed by the state.
Sales Tax - Legislation was approved this week requiring marketplace facilitators to remit Tennessee sales tax on behalf of third-party sellers. Senate Bill 2182 requires marketplace facilitators to collect taxes based on the address where the sale is shipped or where the taxable service is performed. Under the bill, marketplace facilitators are defined as persons that facilitate the sale of tangible personal property or taxable services for third party sellers through physical or electronic platforms, regardless of whether they receive a fee for their services, and collect the payment from purchasers and transmit it to the sellers. Some of these businesses are already collecting the tax.
Voting – The General Assembly passed House Bill 2362, which establishes that counties using an electronic ballot marking system or ballot-on-demand technology do not have to fasten paper ballots and ballot stubs together in books so that each ballot may be detached and removed separately. The legislation also prohibits immediate family members of a candidate on the ballot or employees who work directly under the supervision of a candidate on the ballot from serving as election officials. The bill allows for the movement of polling places due to an emergency.